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a family of reptiles of the suborder Serpentes, or Ophidia. Along the sides of the anus are clawlike vestiges of the posterior extremities, which are more marked in males. There are the rudiments of a pelvis and of the femur. The teeth are found on the maxillary, dentary, pterygoid, and palatine bones and sometimes on the intermaxillary bones. The pupil is vertical. There are two lungs in the majority of Boidae, the right one considerably longer than the left.
The Boidae include the largest of extant snakes—the reticulated python and the anaconda—which both measure as much as 10 m long. The coloration is varied, often with variegated markings. The snakes are distributed mainly in the torrid zone, including the Pacific islands. Most species inhabit forests, while some inhabit steppes and deserts. One lives in trees, others, such as the anaconda, live in water, and still others, of the genus Eryx, live in soil. There are both oviparous and ovoviviparous species.
Boidae attack their prey, mainly various mammals and other vertebrates, by sinking their fangs into the animal and simultaneously coiling their bodies around it and suffocating it. Large serpents, such as pythons, can swallow wild boars and deer. In stances of attacks on humans are known. In the tropics, members of the family are hunted for their skins, which are used for the manufacture of various products, and for their edible flesh. There are 80 species, included in four subfamilies. The subfamily Boinae includes 15 genera, ten of which are distributed in the western hemisphere, two in Madagascar and neighboring islands, one in New Guinea and certain other islands of Oceania, one in Southwest, Central, and Middle Asia, and one in southeastern Europe.
I. S. DAREVSKII